CARICOM Leaders Still Discussing Free And Full Movement Of CARICOM Nationals

(CMC) – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have been unable to sign off on the arrangements to facilitate the free and full movement of CARICOM nationals by the end of last month as had been hoped following their summit in Guyana earlier this year.

“At the last virtual heads meeting, it was decided that a series of meetings will take place leading up to the next meeting in Grenada to complete outstanding amendments to the treaty,” informed sources told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) on Tuesday.

At the end of the summit in Guyana in February, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who has lead responsibility for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), had told reporters “we are on target” as it pertained to the free movement of CARICOM nationals.

The regional leaders were due to have met in mid-March for the anticipated sign-off on the arrangements to facilitate the free and full movement of CARICOM nationals by the end of that month.

The CSME allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour, and services across the region.

Under the existing free movement of skills regime, persons seeking to work in member countries are required to obtain a CARICOM Skills Certificate.

But apart from university graduates, artistes, musicians, sportspeople, media workers, nurses, teachers, associate degree graduates, domestic and artisans, all other categories of workers would need to work permit for the country which they are entering.

Mottley, who was among regional leaders addressing the end of summit news conference in Georgetown, told reporters then that the community is on track to fulfill the mandate regional leaders gave at their historic 50th-anniversary summit in Trinidad and Tobago in July last year for free and full movement of CARICOM nationals from March 31, 2024.

She said then that there were two outstanding matters that must be resolved before full free movement can be operationalised.

These two policy issues were referred to heads for settlement by the intergovernmental task force on free movement.

The task force was due to meet on March 7 and CARICOM’s Legal Affairs Committee was due to have signed sign off on the draft decisions the following day.

“Heads of Government will meet on the 15th of March with the hope that we can sign off in time for the deadline given in Trinidad of the 31st of March for the full freedom of movement of people. As you know, people have the right to move now for six months without question.

“What we are talking about is removing that six-month constraint, but we equally have to understand what are the minimum rights that are guaranteed to our citizens when they move from one country to the other and those are being resolved and settled now,” Mottley had said.

But in this process of negotiation, Antigua and Barbuda had already signalled that it wished to maintain its use of the current skills regime, which allows it to focus on addressing labour force demand in the local market.

“The policy is pragmatic and realistic to avoid dislocation of the indigenous population, protecting jobs, and avoiding exacerbation of our economic/fiscal challenge,” said Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to CARICOM, Dr Clarence Henry.

The Bahamas and Bermuda have also indicated that they would not be part of the free movement of people across the region.